Sleep apnea, simply put, describes breathing problems that occur during sleep. The most common sign is loud, disruptive snoring, but look for irregular breathing – gasping, long pauses – during sleep as well. Left untreated, it can seriously affect your health, including problems ranging from high blood pressure, stroke and heart attacks to diabetes and depression.
Sleep apnea has long been perceived as a male problem, but almost 40 percent of newly diagnosed patients are women, with those over 50 at particular risk. One common solution is a CPAP apparatus (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). It’s worn over the face during sleep and provides a constant airflow to prevent the back of the throat from collapsing. The machine is available by prescription only and requires a sleep study.
Another approach for those who can’t get used to a CPAP machine is the use of a dental appliance. Not every dentist is certified in diagnosing and fitting such appliances, but both Dental Sleep Medicine of Athens and Athens Family Dentistry have dentists who are. If you suspect you or someone close to you has sleep apnea, consult first with your primary care physician.